The Cincinnati Bengals probably had nightmares all week after former Heritage Patriot standout player Sione Takitaki and the Cleveland Browns dominated them on Halloween night. Even though the Cleveland Browns were the underdogs, it wasn’t a huge shock that they beat the Bengals. The truth is, they have been dominant against them, now sitting at 5-0 under Kevin Stefanski against their in-state rivals.

What was a bit surprising, however, was the way in which they won. A defense that struggled all season turned into a shutdown unit for the first 45 minutes and the offense overcame early mistakes to put on an absolute show. The final result was a lopsided 32-13 win as Cleveland improved to 3-5, boasting a 2-1 record in the AFC North.

Takitaki, at linebacker, is easily one of the most underappreciated players on the Cleveland roster, but that wouldn’t be the case in last week’s Monday Night Football game as he made sure his name would not be forgotten. The former Menifee native made three tackles on the second Cincinnati drive alone, including two in a row where he sniffed out passes to RB Joe Mixon. First, he hit him for a two-yard gain and then for a two-yard loss on the next play. He then joined Martin Emerson to stuff Samaje Perine for no gain on a second down and 10.

As good as he was on that drive, it was later in the first half when he really stepped up. Takitaki came in on the blitz and blew up QB Joe Burrow, scoring a strip sack, which was recovered by Tommy Togiai. Cleveland was unable to convert thanks to a fumble that was lost when Jacoby Brissett was sacked but Takitaki’s play was huge in slowing down this high-powered Bengals’ offense. In all, he had 13 tackles, six of which were solo, as he was all over the field. It was a great night as he stepped up with several starters around him out.

Cleveland Browns linebacker Sione Takitaki, a former standout player for Heritage High School and BYU, celebrates a fumble recovery during a recent NFL game. Valley News/Cleveland Browns courtesy photo

With 3:34 remaining in the first half, Burrow was pressured by Takitaki and the Browns defense. The former BYU standout stripped the Bengals quarterback of the football for the second forced fumble of his NFL career. Togiai recovered the loose ball and gave the Browns possession at the Cincinnati 47-yard line. After the fumble, Takitaki led Cleveland’s defense with seven total tackles, four solo tackles, one sack and one tackle for loss.

At BYU, Takitaki finished his senior campaign with 119 tackles, 75 solo tackles, 10 for loss and 4 sacks. Following his college career, the Browns selected Takitaki with the No. 80 overall pick during the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

After getting drafted by the Browns, Takitaki said they wanted him to play linebacker in the NFL and that the defensive end spot was great for him too.“It helped me out for all of these teams (scouting him) and the Browns definitely took a look at that to show them my versatility.”

This season, going into that game against the Bengals, Takitaki had recorded 24 total tackles and 14 solo tackles. During his NFL career thus far, he has 156 total tackles, 90 solo tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one interception and one touchdown in 52 games.

JP Raineri can be reached by email at

JP Raineri
JP Raineri

JP is an award-winning multimedia journalist, and head of the Sports Department for the Valley News. Over his time in the Temecula Valley, JP, a former Southwestern League head baseball coach, was also an on-air radio personality at Q103.3, KATY 101.3, Hot 103.9, and was a television host for the Outdoor Channel. When not covering local, or national sports, JP also serves as an Associate Baseball Scout with NSR.